Zulu Wars: Portable Colonial Wargame

Anthony and I played this game a few weeks ago at the Guildford Club but I have been so busy with work that I haven’t had chance to sort out the photographs and write it up.

The game was played on a 6′ x 4′ mat from Deep Cut Studios with a 6″ grid on it using Anthony’s collection of Little Legion 54mm glossy figures. Units were 6 figures strong.

The game was played down the length of the table and very, very loosely based on the Isandlwana scenario for The Sword and the Flame.

The rules used were Bob Cordery’s Portable Colonial Wargames rules using the “sudden death” option without strength points for the units. A unit when shot, or losing melee either dies immediately or falls back a square.

Native units can move twice in a turn if they manage to throw a 5 or 6 on a die before moving, which gives them a mobility advantage.

For the first game, Anthony took 2 infantry, and artillery piece and a Gatling gun which proved slightly overwhelming in its firepower.

The gatling gun proved so effective that the Zulus were unable to close the left-hand horn around the flank (only having 6 units, I opted for a chest and one horn) and they were mowed down in their hundreds leading to a British Victory.

For the second game we reset and Anthony replaced the Gatling with a third Infantry unit and I again took eight units of Zulus.

The artillery piece on the flank proved much less effective than the gatling and the flank envelopment worked this time leading to a resounding British defeat as they were wiped from the map.


Again, another fun game which was quick enough to allow us to play two games in an evening.

19th Century Portable Wargame

I played another 19th Century game using The Portable Wargames rules this week. My hardback copy of the rules appears to have been lost in the post, so we played using the downloaded version. But, actually, we would have used that version anyway as I prefer it to the version published in the book. I will expand on that in a review of The Portable Wargame once I get a chance.

I chose Scenario 14 – A Static Defense from One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas and we rolled up our forces from the same book, adding 2 infantry to the totals for a total of 8 units.

The game was played on a 4′ x 3′ mat with 4″ squares so I adjusted the map slightly to allow for the extra width over the 3′ x 3′ map in the One Hour Wargames book.

The scenario places the Red player (British played by Anthony in this case) in defence with the task of defending a hill and a town. They must start with hald their forces near each location and keep at least 2 units within 3 squares of the objectives at all times,.

The Blue Player (myself playing with German troops) has to take one objective and be the sole occupant at the end of the game on the 15th turn.

I added some extra cover to the map as we are playing a version of the Portable Wargame where a unit eiher dies or has to retreat if it is hit. If it can’t retreat then it also dies (as we shall see).

Unusually, Anthony and I both rolled a 1 for our force composition which gave as each 2 artillery, 1 cavalry and 5 infantry. We designated the rifle troops on each side to be elite, all other units were average.

The initial deployment – the Germans had to enter the table on the southern edge on turn one.

The British left wing defending the town with the general.

Defence of the hill.

The initial deployment of the German attackers.

The second turn saw an artillery exchange which destroyed both the German guns (as they were unable to retreat) and caused the British to lose one gun (as it couldn’t retreat) and one British foot unit was eliminated when the German gun overshot its original target.

The Germans advancing on the hill – the plan was a small nuisance force on the right flank and a main thrust at the hill.

Continuing to advance on the hill while the Bavarian unit threatens the town.

Germans advance on the hill fairly unhindered.

Just after this point the german cavalry were hit by artillery fire when the gun on the other flank missed the intended infantry target and hit the cavalry when they were unable to retreat.

The Bavaran infantry were able to extract revenge and destroyed the artillery the same turn.

The British cavalry finally move off the hill and get stuck in.

The Bavarians attempt to win the game all by themselves by finishing off the only British unit on that flank and taking the town. Sadly they pushed he British back but then failed to take the town and were destroyed.

On the other flank, this was the final result at the end of turn 15. The remaining German unit was unable to take the hill or force the remaining two British units from it.

It was a very close game with Anthony convinced he had lost about turn 8 when the hill looked likely to fall but his cavalry was able to survive a melee from two units and then turned that to their advantage to destroy most of the German attackers on that flank before being shot down.

Once again we managed a fun, very close game in just over 2 hours including set up and packing away – One Hour Wargames Scenarios with The Portable Wargames rules are proving a winning combination.

Garrison Abandoned!

We played a 4-player NWF 54mm game at the Guildford Club this week. It pitched Anthony and Alistair as the British attempting to relieve a Garrison against Andrew and I as the Afghans. We used The Sword and the Flame rules with half size units.

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Slightly blurry view of the garrison awaiting their relief column.

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Anthony and Alistair looking confident – this didn’t last too long…

We set up with the Afghans using hidden movement and with a rule that they would be placed on the table if they fired, moved in the open or the British came within 12 inches of their concealment.

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The game at the start without an Afghan in sight!

The British advanced cautiously onto the table. In fact, very cautiously as for the first few turns the Halt card came up in the movement phase and Alistair hardly moved his troops at all. The Afghans skulked from cover to cover waiting to see what the British planned and happy to leave the British Garrison to their own devices.

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The first troops to engage were the horse on both sides but neither proved conclusive with the Afghan horse refusing to close.

Eventually, a Pathan sword unit charged the British flank and killed the majority of the unit sending the rest running to the rear.

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On the their flank, Andrew’s Pathans finally closed and repeated their success by polishing on another British unit.

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At this point the British decided that discretion was the better part of valour and withdrew.

To be fair, the British fire power was poor and then Alistair threw 6 1’s out of 9 throws in melee which really didn’t help!

It was a fun game and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

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Action in the North-West Frontier

Anthony and I played another North-West Frontier game using our 54mm collection and Bob Cordery’s Portable Colonial Wargames rules.

The game was played on a 3 x 4 mat marked in 10cm squares.

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This is the setup at the start of the game. The objective is the small ruined outpost in the centre of the battlefield. They winner is the person who holds it at the end of turn 15.

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This is a closeup of the British and Pathan setups. Anthony was playing British as usual…

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The natives in the rules can sometimes double move and I was able to use this ability troops into cover and quickly to the objective and to cover the flanks. However, the dice were really against me and with Anthony and I failed to win any melees. When you take a hit you can be forced back or destroyed. I only managed to save a unit from destruction once in the entire game!

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Even with me losing most of my units the game still came down to Turn 15 and a final chance to clear the ruin of British forces.

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But sadly, I lost the melee again and the British won the day…

Another really fun game with some very simple but elegant rules.

Return to the Portable Wargame

After the two games of the Airfix Wargame and some lunch we played a game of The Portable Wargame again, using my 4′ x 3′ mat marked in 10cm squares. We used my Little Wars revisited armies (with some Pathans standing in for Prussian levies).

The scenario we used was from Neil Thomas’s One Hour Wargames and was scenario 12: An Unfortunate Oversight which as the blue player attacking over a river through ford the Red player hasn’t discovered. We also used the random army lists from OHW but adding two infantry units to make the totals up to 8 units a side. The scenario lasts for 15 turns and who ever holds the hill uncontested wins.

Anthony rolled up 6 infantry, one poor unit and an artillery piece which were deployed like so:

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Defending the town as the Red player.

I rolled up 6 infantry, 1 poor infantry and a cavalry unit.

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I deployed on the edge of the table south of the river.

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There is a balancing act between using scenarios from one book and rules from somewhere else and we had already learned that you must have cover for the Portable Wargame. In PW the units can be killed in one shot while the OHW rules use attrition so units take hits but don’t immediately disappear. At first, I thought that the balance of the game was off as Anthony’s artillery piece killed my very slow moving infantry as it tried to cross the ford. I sent the cavalry on ahead with the general as an advance strike force.

We realised towards the end of the game that Anthony should have not been able to shoot across the river using direct fire as I was too far away and should have been using indirect fire on the ford itself…

When my cavalry unit finally manage to engage the enemy it proved its worth by wiping out an infantry unit and the artillery in one round and then turning on the other infantry to clear the hill. Unfortunately it was eliminated as it pushed the poor quality infantry off the board. Anthony had the foresight to have moved one unit from the bridge towards the hill and it came down to a melee on turns 14 and 15 to determine who would gain the hill, a struggle that Anthony won.

In the end, a very close game and a tense, interesting game to play. If I had been given artillery for the game I could have countered Anthony’s strengths, but then my superiority in cavalry meant I had more opportunity to outflank his infantry.

We will definitely be playing these again with Neil Thomas’s scenarios.

The Airfix Wargame in 54mm

Anthony and I spent a pleasant Thursday this week playing a couple of games with a spot of lunch in the middle. it had originally been planned that we would play a funny Little Wars game in the garden but unfortunately, the other participants were not able to make it so it has been postponed for another day.

The first game we played was the Airfix Wargame which we have tried out before with the boards and cards that come with the game. This time it was played on Anthony’s Mat and with his 54mm figures.

This was the setup for Scenario 2:

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Anthony took the allies at the top of the picture and I had the Germans. The scenario was to capture and hold the farmhouse in the centre of the board for 2 turns.

Anthony’s initial deployment:

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My initial deployment:

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Anthony won the initiative but was unable to move his first unit into the farmhouse on the first turn due to the rough ground in front of it. I had a card that let me do that and my pioneers took the farmhouse.

Anthony then managed to wound them but over the two turns couldn’t dislodge them as he didn’t have the cards and they passed their moral.

So, a quick first game and we reset and played again.

This time, Anthony captured the farmhouse and I was not able to dislodge him despite assaulting it with my veteran unit.

One victory a piece. We discussed the game and realised there was much more we could have both done with the edge cover pieces you deplOy at the start of the game and I could have made better use of my MG team.

All in all, a fun game which will improve as we play it more and get used to the tactics.

The Portable Colonial Wargame

After our success at playing a few games of Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame rules, Anthony and I decided to try out the Colonial version of the rules using our 54mm North-West Frontier collection.

We assigned 6 units plus a gun to the British and 8 units plus a gun to the Pathans. The British had magazine rifles with a range of 4 grid squares and rifled artillery with a range of 8 squares; while the Pathans had a rifle range of 3 grid squares and smoothbore artillery with a range of 6 squares. We classified all the troops as average with the exception of the cavalry on each side who were elite.

The initial deployment is shown here:
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The rules have the interesting mechanic that native troops can double move on a 5,6 – they cannot fire after such a move but it does let them outflank their opponents.

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We tried the exhaustion point rule from the original rules of 1/3 of the units but what happened was the native lost 3 units first and then couldn’t attack. We decided this doesn’t really work unless you are playing a scenario. We played on until one side lost 2/3 of its units – which meant a narrow victory to the natives.

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Overall, the rules worked well, looked good and we both enjoyed the game.

The Portable Wargame

I have become slightly fascinated by grid based wargames over the last month after re-reading about Bob Cordery’s The Portable Wargame and Bob’s postings about the Joseph Morschauser’s book on wargaming from the 1960s.

I picked up the Morschauser book and found it fascinating as a different style of wargame that didn’t really seem to catch on, yet one that reflects a lot of more modern gaming.

So, I bought a gridded mat and Anthony came round this afternoon to give the Portable Wargame rules a go. We used my Little Wars Revisited figures, using 6 figures for infantry and 2 figures for cavalry units and played a simple “capture the crossroads” game.

British and German forces lined up ready to deploy.

The deployment made.

Anthony commanding the British (as always!)

The German cavalry get stuck in.

We found the rules very enjoyable and a very elegant set that worked really well with 54mm figures. Both of us liked the look of the gridded game and plan to play again soon.

Boer Long Tom

A quick picture of the first casting and test assembly of our new Boer Long Tom 155mm Creusot gun for the Imperial Miniatures 54mm range. Shown here with a British Sgt Major for scale.

This will come with crew and I am hoping to have it available in complete form at the April Toy Soldier show….

Mike